Here is the view from the winery, looking out over the vineyards. The land has been family owned since 1497. Click here for an interesting time line/family tree.
44 distinct vineyard blocks are managed separately and produce a small range of interesting, terroir-driven bottlings.
Their oldest vineyard block is stake-trained xarel-lo vines that clock in at over 60 years. The Raventós i Blanc still bottling "Silencis" really captures what xarel-lo can be here.
<-- We took to the vineyards in a Land Rover from way back!
The property has several different soil types. Compare the stony soil in the photo to the left with the sandy soil in the photo below-- two completely different soils from within walking distances apart. (kinda reminds me of the south Rhone!)
In the photo below you see some old parellada vines, free-standing (no trellis) in the sandy soil. At the time of this visit (Sept 2011) this parcel was just about ready to harvest. Vineyard workers had recently done some canopy thinning to let the sun ripen the last of the bunches that were lagging in their brix levels. I could really taste the difference between the sun-exposed grapes and the grapes hidden behind the leaves. It's also noticable in the color-- the sun-exposed grapes are yellower and the shaded grapes have a greenish tint.
No irrigation is allowed in this DOC, so all vines are dry farmed. Some blocks get a little water-table help from a 200 year old man made lake nearby, originally constructed to water trees used in wine box production.
See below for a photo of this special tree-- at 500 years old, this is the second oldest oak tree in Catalonia.
The grapes are fed into the fermenting room by gravity. This is a fancy way of saying that they dump the bunches into the crusher from the ceiling-- most wineries build their fermentation facility into a natural hillside so that they can do this. The side of the fermenting room in the hill keeps cool from being underground, the other side usually opens up to allow machinery/people in if needed, and trucks carrying the fruit can drive up the hill and drop the fruit in from above.
Here they produce beautiful still white wines in addition to cavas. Because of the warm weather in this region, the natural acidity in the grape is a bit lower than in other sparkling wine regions. Because of this, they almost never dosage their cavas. In a very high-acid vintage, they might dosage a small amount if it's needed.
After the secondary fermentation they must concentrate the lees in the neck of the bottle in order to remove them, and these automated riddlers get the job done efficiently.
In 1872 Pepe's great great great grandfather, Josep Raventós Fatjó, pioneered sparkling wine production in Spain after being inspired in Champagne. His son, Manuel Raventós Doménech (Pepe's great great grandfather), dealt with replanting after phylloxera and built up the sparkling wine production.
Pepe's grandfather created the CAVA denomination. Pepe's father & grandfather (Josep & Manuel) founded Raventós i Blanc in 1986 with the specific goal of premium wine production that would define itself apart from the larger producers in the region. Manuel pioneered single vineyard cava, and Manuel and Pepe continue to explore the possibilities within their unique terroirs.
And this brings us to the current issues surrounding cava. With so many huge producers making millions of cases of cheap cava, how can medium or small producers making high-quality wines stand out from this crowd and break away from the "cava is a cheap & lower quality version of Champagne" stereotype? Champagne's massive and successful global marketing strategy (funded by some of the huge producers in the region) has paved the way for Champagne to dominate the fine-sparkling market. A few producers-- Raventós (Spain), Schramsberg (California), Tissot (Jura), and some of the higher quality franciacorta producers-- have shouldered into this market, but consumers mostly remain closed to the possibilities of quality in sparkling wine from outside of Champagne. Can this be challenged? Could small fine-wine producers in Spain create something like a Special Club designation to help them with international branding? I'm interested to see what happens over the next few decades with high quality sparkling wine from outside of Champagne, especially Spain. Pepe will play an integral role in this-- in the span of 160 years his family brought sparkling wine to Spain, then paved the way for cava, and is now in the midst of re-defining cava. This can be tasted in the wines, and I look forward to seeing what lies in store for Spanish producers of high quality sparkling wines.